Daniel: The Key to Interpretation (Daniel 5:13-31)
When Daniel is brought before the king, the king says, “You are that Daniel.” The King James Version puts this in the form of a question-“Art thou that Daniel?” There is nothing in the original that suggests we should take this as a question. If it is a question, it is certainly a rhetorical question, for Belshazzar goes right ahead with what he intendeds to tell Daniel. It really seems as though the king is saying, “So, you’re the Daniel I’ve heard so much about.”
Daniel tells the king that he can keep his reward. He will read the handwriting without any promise of a reward. Why would Daniel be willing to interpret the handwriting “free of charge”? Do we sometimes want recognition for our service, recognition that should go to God?
Daniel next goes directly to the proud heart of Belshazzar. Once more, we find reference to God as “the Most High God.” Such a description would surely begin to humble Belshazzar who has just displayed such arrogance. Daniel also points out that it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar’s wisdom or military strength that brought him greatness, but God gave greatness to Nebuchadnezzar. Notice also that Daniel points out that God gave Nebuchadnezzar complete control of the world-“Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled” (v 19). However, when Nebuchadnezzar became proud, “he was brought down from his kingly throne” (v 20), just as Belshazzar was about to be.
There certainly seems to be a lesson here about passing on character to our children. It is uncertain whether or not Nebuchadnezzar was a biological ancestor of Belshazzar. The term “father” used throughout this text could mean “predecessor.” However, there is some evidence that Belshazzar’s father married Nebuchadnezzar’s widow. The queen mother who comes into the feasts seems to be Nebuchadnezzar’s widow. If that is the case, it’s possible that Belshazzar was, in a sense, a stepson of Nebuchadnezzar.
Whether or not Belshazzar was biologically Nebuchadnezzar’s son, he certainly attempted to emulate the great Babylonian king. How many American Presidents attempt to copy what a “hero” of their party did? The same thing could certainly be going on here with Belshazzar. The point is that Belshazzar learned to be prideful from watching Nebuchadnezzar and others often pick up character traits by watching us.
Belshazzar knew all this, but he did not humble his heart before God. Why would a pagan king need to humble his heart before God? Are even those who aren’t the people of God accountable to God?
Even the universe and history reveal to us some things about God (Acts 14:15-18; 17:22-31; Rom 1:18-23; Ps 19:1-6).
From God’s presence came a hand to write. This indicates the supernatural nature of the hand that wrote. The hand obviously had to be supernatural, for it wrote things that no mortal could have been able to know.
“Mene” is a passive participle of “menah.” The verb means “to number.” It means not only to count something but to fix the number of something. The idea is that God has fixed the days of the kingdom of Belshazzar.
“Tekel” is a passive participle and means “to weigh.” Belshazzar has been weighed in God’s scales and found seriously lacking.
“Peres” means “to break” or “to divide.” There may also be a pun with the word Persian with the use of this word. The idea is that the kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
Belshazzar was killed that very night.
Darius the Mede, at about 62 years of age, received the kingdom.